Jan 29

Super Bowl food for the non sports fan!

If you know anything about me, I am not a sports fan / follower. Yes, come the Olympics we try to stay up on events. When the World Cup comes around I love to hear the stats and facts of teams across the world. The World Series, anything basket ball related, and Super Bowl – we are lucky if we know when and what is going on about it. In many ways we are the outcasts to our family over all of this.

Ingredients all lined up and ready.

Ingredients all lined up and ready.

Growing up, my family did lots of stuff around sports. During football season it was not uncommon to find my father in his recliner with my sister in a chair next to him watching the Giants. If you were to go to my Uncle Frank and Aunt Fran’s home my uncle always had baseball or basketball on the TV. And as far as my Uncle Bill was concerned – he was always watching, playing, coaching, or refereeing whatever was in season. I, however, never shared these passions. When I first started dating my husband it was a breath of fresh air that he did not have any fascinations with sports, and yet his family did. His Auntie Orch and Uncle Dave were die hard Yankee and baseball fans. His father and brother are avid Giant fans. Upon first moving to Phoenix we were back in New Jersey for a family wedding the following September. When we came down for breakfast in the morning my father-in-law asked, “The Cardinals are playing the Giants! Who are you rooting for?” We both responded the same way, “Are you talking about baseball or football?” My father-in-law had a disgusted look on his face and replied with: “I have no hope with either of you!”

Layer Dip in a glass plate looks great because you can see all the layers.

Layer Dip in a glass plate looks great because you can see all the layers.

Needless to say; whether we are in New Jersey, Phoenix, and now Seattle – it really does not matter what sport is playing. We just don’t follow it. But in the last two years it has been strange. We have a winning football team (the Seahawks) an neither of us have any clue about it. Last week as we are watching 80’s cult film classics we can hear roars of cheering outside – that is our indication that the Seahawks just had a good play. Some might find it odd. I mean the entire city is into it. Despite all the sports fanatics that my husband and I grew up with nothing compares to the amount of Seahawks propaganda that is everywhere you turn. Not to mention, the city kind of shuts down when a game is being played; by this I mean I could take Martini and Latte for a walk down the middle of 1st street and there wouldn’t be a car or person in sight! I find it a bit eerie to tell you the truth. I never saw or experienced anything like this while living in New Jersey or Phoenix.

Layer Dip with Tortilla Chips

Layer Dip with Tortilla Chips

So, I must admit that I find it strangely odd that last year the Seahawks go to the Super Bowl in – New Jersey. This year, the Seahawks will be playing the Super Bowl in – Phoenix. It is like there is a conspiracy in some way to get us involved in a sport we could care less about. So while I came to this realization I made a meal the other night fit for a Super Bowl party. This is something I would have made while I lived in New Jersey – thinking it was “Mexican food”, only to realize after living in Phoenix for ten years that it is nothing close to what Mexican food really is. I have lived and learned (about food) but as far as sports are concerned I still know very little. But Brian and I are happy that way! As for our Super Bowl type food – it was good and tasty; but you will still not see us eating it while watching the game! That is just unheard of.

Layer Dip scooped and ready to dive in.

Layer Dip scooped and ready to dive in.

Super Bowl Layer Dip (serves 6-8)

1 can of refried beans

1 small container of sour cream

1 container of your favorite salsa

1-2 large avocado (diced or mashed)

1 serrano or jalapeno chili, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tbsp of minced onion

sea salt to taste

1 lime, juiced

1 – 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese (I personally like a smoked one)

1 small can of black olives, sliced

3 – 4 radishes, chopped small

2 – 3 cups of shredded romaine lettuce

Tortilla chips for scooping.

First, in a glass pie plate spread the refried beans down evenly. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix the avocado, garlic, onion, chili, lime juice, and sea salt. Combine until well blended and set aside.

Next, layer the remainder of your ingredients evenly and carefully on top of the beans. I personally like to add the sour cream above the beans, followed by the avocado mix. Be sure to be gentle while spreading and layering. If you press down on amy of it too hard you will mix up your layers. Pour your salsa over it all in as even as a coating as possible.

Then, top all of it with an even layer of your cheese. Above the cheese, sprinkle your lettuce evenly. Tope it all with the olives and radishes. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat, at lest a hour before eating or up to a day ahead.

Finally, remove from the refrigerator and serve chilled. Have your Tortilla chips on the side and enjoy.

Jan 25

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta

We came home from our vacation to find our refrigerator quite bare. That is natural given the circumstances, I mean who would want to go away and leave perishable food in their refrigerator? Who knows what you would come home to!?! So we came home to nothing “fresh” to cook and only pantry staples. So, I headed over to the market; something fresh, bright in flavor, and comforting to eat was in order.

Broccoli Rabe heaping and ready to simmer.

Broccoli Rabe heaping and ready to simmer.

As I walked through the market I spotted it – Braccoli Rabe (or Rappi if you want to call it that). I know that I wrote on here before about my affection for this vegetable and how I grew up eating it. But lately I have been making it with a new twist. I was reading a while back about how lemon is a perfect parring with greens, bitter greens especially. I wanted to give it a try with my favorite greens. I have been cooking them like this for a year now and it is fabulous.

Broccoli Rabe once it wilts.

Broccoli Rabe once it wilts.

 

I simply just slowly simmer the broccoli rabe until tender, then you add in garlic, chili flakes, and olive oil. Once the garlic is tender you add in lemon zest and fresh lemon juice. Toss it all with pasta and serve it with lots of freshly grated parmesan. It is a warm and slightly spicy dish with a nice bright finish from the lemons. There is only one thing that makes this whole dish better – Meyer Lemons. (They are not as harsh and a bit softer in its taste, but it is just as bright in flavor.)

Broccoli Rabe all plated up and dressed with parmesan.

Broccoli Rabe all plated up and dressed with parmesan.

So of course when I saw the broccoli rabe I knew I needed to make this meal. Who wouldn’t want a meal like this after a week away? it is one of those meals that makes you feel as good inside as it is tasty. To me, a meal worth coming home to and getting your everyday life back in order. Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta is that good.

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta - I'm digging in!

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta – I’m digging in!

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta (serves 4)

*Note: You can easily substitute lemon if meyer lemon cannot be found.

1 bunch of broccoli rabe

3 meyer lemons, zested and juiced

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt

3/4 – 1 pound of pasta of choice

parmesan cheese for grating

First, trim the bottom end (at least a 1/2 inch) of your broccoli rabe. Wash it several times to be sure it is clean. Chop the remainder into 1 inch pieces. Place them in a large saute pan (it may be heaping, and that is okay) with about 1 1/2 cups of water. Place the pan over medium heat and heat until water begins to simmer and the broccoli rabe starts to wilt.

Next, place a large pot (6 – 8 quarts) of salted water over high heat and wait for it to boil.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on your broccoli rabe. You are looking for the majority of the water to simmer away while you keep stirring it. When there is only a trace of water left; add in your olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Place a lid on the pot for about 5 minutes and then remove, your garlic should start to become fragrant and tender. Season it with some sea salt to taste.

Finally, your large pot of water should be boiling. Cook your pasta according to the directions on its packaging.  Once the pasta is cooking add the meyer lemon juice and zest to the broccoli rabe and stir is all together while gently simmering. When pasta is cooked drain it well and toss it together with the broccoli rabe serve with lots of parmesan cheese to grate fresh.

Jan 22

New Orleans Trip leads to Vegan Red Beans and Rice

On January 1st Brian and I packed our bags and headed to New Orleans for a much anticipated vacation. We had never been and yearning to go for quite some time. Just like life is, things kept popping up and the trip kept getting pushed back. When we realized that we both had some time to finally get away come January we jumped at the chance. I searched for a deal online, booked the trip, and waited on pins and needles for us to get there.

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Beignets – just some of the few I indulged in.

I couldn’t wait to walk around a city I have never been before. (One of my favorite parts of enjoying a new place.) Jazz music and beignets were to be indulged in, along with some great creole food. Believe me, New Orleans did not disappoint. The jazz music we stumbled upon both out on the streets and in clubs was so enjoyable. I tried beignets at three different places; and might I add that the ones at Morning Call were the best. Brian indulged in a New Orleans treat called “Crawfish Bread”…yes, he loved every nibble of it! We toured through the Treme, the Bywater, and Frenchman Street. We road the streetcars, strolled through City Park, indulged in a very nice meal at Bayona, and we even got to eat at the famous Dooky Chase (it was an honor to be there, but that is another blog post entirely).

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City Park, NOLA

I know many probably go to New Orleans to party, drink, and live it up till all hours of the night. But I am not everybody and I felt somewhat guilty about telling Brian that I wanted to go to bed by the time 10 o’clock rolled around. I rationalized it with it was my vacation and we did do a lot everyday we were there. We were up and at early each day, most likely while most were still fast asleep. I love being out and about in a new place just as the sun hits the sidewalks and you see the comings, and goings of everyday life there. By the time evenings roll around I am  just as happy relaxing in my PJ’s and watching reruns of Criminal Intent.

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I will admit that I loved just about everything in that city, and I am personally looking forward to going back and exploring new parts of it. There was one disappointment though. Being a vegetarian, there was a lack to good old creole or soul food I could indulge in. Lots of the dishes have ham, pork, or crawfish in them. At each place we passed by I would look over the menu, and see my option was a salad. I am not complaining mind you. I was prepared for this, and every salad I ate was really tasty. But I really wanted a dish of red beans and rice! They looked so good, and there were a couple of dishes of them I spotted that made my mouth water. What could I do about it? I did the only thing I knew I could. I purchased a bag of New Orleans Red Beans to bring home and once we were settled – Vegan Creole Red Beans and Rice was for dinner. The result: super tasty, savory, and oh so yummy! It may not be a traditional way of cooing them, but it was damn good! Maybe on my next visit there will be more food options for the vegetarian, in the mean time I will keep indulging in my vegan version.

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Creole Red Beans  (Serves 4)

1 cup dried red beans

1 green bell pepper, cored and diced

1 yellow onion, chopped small

3 cloves of garlic, chopped small

2 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 quart veggie stock

sea salt to taste

cooked white or brown rice (variety of preference)

First, the night before you would like to make this dish place your beans in a large bowl and cover with about 5 cups  of water. Cover and set aside in a cool dark place overnight. (I personally just keep it on my counter out of direct sunlight.)

Next, drain the beans and place in a 4 – 6 quart pot with a a quart of water. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer for about 45 minutes.

Then, add your green bell pepper and onion. Along with this add your herbs, black pepper, and nutritional yeast. Stir it well and add your veggie stock. Let it all simmer together until your beans are tender and your liquid is reduced by half.

Finally, remove a few ladles of your mixture and puree. Add this mixture back to the pot and stir together seasoning it with your sea salt to taste. Ladle you mixture over rice and serve.

 

Jan 16

Memorable Warm Cabbage Salad

There is a restaurant in Sedona, Az. called The Heartline Cafe that Brian and I really enjoyed over the years. While living in the dessert we would annually make a trip up to Sedona during the holiday season. We would enjoy a touch of the cooler temperature, take in christmas light displays, treat ourselves to a great meal, and head back home. Sedona was a bit of a drive from where we lived (at least an hour and a half); but it was always well worth it.

While eating our dinner this past Christmas Eve I kept thinking about the last time we were there. It was five years prior and I almost didn’t go. You see right after Thanksgiving that year my father ended up in the hospital. By the time Christmas rolled around he was still there. His health was touch and go for a while, we were all scared, and could not get into the holiday spirit in the least. I can remember looking at Brian and telling him we should cancel our plans and stay home, I was not in the mood for anything holiday related. But he insisted we make the trip. I can remember him expressing to me that I needed to do something other than worry about my family.

Cabbage ready to be wilted and dressed.

Cabbage ready to be wilted and dressed.

To be honest, I really don’t even remember the drive. I slept most of the way there and it felt good. I had not had a full nights sleep since before this whole ordeal with my father started. Once we were in Sedona we walked through a Christmas light display and being out in the cool air felt so good. We then headed over to the restaurant and had a wonderful meal. I can remember I had a deliciously warm and comforting red cabbage salad. It was out of the ordinary from what I normally would eat, and that is quite possibly why I remember it so well. It had crunch, nuts, and some delicious creamy goat cheese, it was a very well rounded salad if you ask me.

Warm Cabbage dressed and waiting to be plated.

Warm Cabbage dressed and waiting to be plated.

Fast forward to present day. My father is much better now thank you. As last Christmas passed, New Year’s went by, and I still had that warm cabbage salad on my mind – yes, five years later. Once Brian and I were back into our grove of normalcy last week, I stopped by the market to pick up a head of purple cabbage so I could recreate the salad in my memory. The result was just as good as I remembered. And might I add…What better on these winter evenings than a warm salad that still has crunch? Plus, it is so pretty on the plate with it’s deep hue that it will impress others you serve it to. Trust me, this salad is a memorable one.

Warm Cabbage Salad

Warm Cabbage Salad, plated and ready to eat.

Warm Cabbage Salad, with Hazelnuts, Goat Cheese, and Pears (serves 4 – 6)

***Note: when choosing a cabbage, be sure to pick one that is dense, crisp, and deep in huge. This salad will work fine with a green or red cabbage but I personally like the hue the purple cabbage lends to the dish.

1 medium head of purple cabbage; peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbsp honey

sea salt to taste

fresh black pepper to taste

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skins rubbed off

2 oz fresh goat cheese

1 – 2 pears firm and crisp

First, place a large sauce pan over medium heat and warm through. Poor the vegetable oil in the pan and warm through. Add the cabbage to the pan and keep stirring and tossing until cabbage is slightly wilted but remains its crunchy texture.

Next, once cabbage is wilted slightly add the vinegar and honey and keep stirring and tossing until well coated. Season the cabbage with sea salt and black pepper to taste along with 1 tbsp of the thyme over it all. Stir it well.

Then, roughly chop the hazelnuts. add them to the cabbage mixture and toss it well. Slice your pears in half, removing the core, and slice them evenly. Break up or slice your goat cheese evenly, and set aside.

Finally, with cabbage still warm divid it among your plates. Arrange the pear slices along the side of the salads, place your goat cheese on top of your cabbage, and sprinkle each plate with the remainder of the thyme leaves. Serve while still warm.

Dec 31

Mixed Colorful Roasted Veggies

In the past couple of days I have taken the time to reflect on what has passed, what I would like to stay, and in some cases what I would rather forget. There were new things I tried, new destinations we have gone to, new goals that had been made, and new ambitions to be put into place. I have done this for the last few few years as it all comes to a close. In some sorts it is like taking inventory of what I have valued, learned, and let go of.

Mixed veggies, very colorful; and ready for the oven.

Mixed veggies, very colorful; and ready for the oven.

I do not feel it is uncommon to do this at the end of the year. Getting ready to take on a new one with abandonment and ambition. For some reason it always makes me think of the movie Forest Gump. There is the point in the movie when he is visiting Lieutenant Dan in New York for New Year’s Eve. There is a girl there who says, “Don’t you just love New Years? It’s like everyone gets a fresh start!”

Nicely roasted and fresh out of the oven.

Nicely roasted and fresh out of the oven.

With a fresh start on my horizon I thought about the moments of this past year that stand out the most. The ones I am proud of, and the moments I want to cherish forever. In retrospect it was the moments that were colorful. They made us smile, laugh, giggle, and cheer. That made me think of my dinner last night…it was very colorful: Mixed Roasted Veggies. Using up the miscellaneous veggies we had on hand resulted in an array of color and huge flavor. (We are going away for a few days and we have been trying to clean out the refrigerator.) Maybe if we eat more colorfully we will live more colorfully? It is worth a try. In the meantime, Happy New Year to you all. Be happy, be safe, live it fully, and eat colorfully!

Roasted, plated, and oh so colorful!

Roasted, plated, and oh so colorful!

Mixed Colorful Roasted Veggies (feeds 4)

*Note: this is more then enough as a side dish for 4, but I have on occasion made this  and have been more than enough as a mane dish for 2 with a light and simple salad to accompany it.

3 purple potatoes, cubed

2 golden beets, cubed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 parsnip, peeled and chopped

5 sun chokes or Jerusalem artichokes, cleaned and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 bulb fennel, trimmed and sliced

olive oil

sea salt

black pepper, freshly ground

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and brush the parchment with a bit of olive oil.

Next, place all your veggies in a large bowl and drizzle about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of olive oil over it all. with your hands, toss it all together. (I like to use my hands for this because you feel if the veggies are coated fully.) Keep tossing until all your veggies seem to have an even coating of olive oil on them.

Then, distribute the tossed veggies among the two lined sheet pans. Sprinkle the veggies with your sea salt and some black pepper and place in your oven to roast.

Finally, let the veggies roast for 20 – 25 minutes. Open the oven and give the veggies a good stir and place back in the oven for about, another 20 minutes. You are looking for a bit of caramelization over the veggies and for them to be tender to a fork. Remove from the oven when done and  serve.

Dec 30

Spicy Garbanzo and Butternut Squash Curry

As the year comes to a close and there are random amounts of stuff in my refrigerator. I have been pondering what to make, without the usual hodge-podge of veggies thrown together in a soup, pasta, or my usual stir fry. I will admit that I do make each of these things tasty, but I was looking for something a bit more lively and flavorful this time around. After looking over my vegetable dilemma I realized I had some onion I needed to make use of along with the bottom half of a butternut squash, and a couple of red potatoes. Not necessarily thrilling, but I really needed something out of the ordinary.

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Spicy Curry ingredients being gathered.

Then I remembered! I was looking at the blog from the Canal House just a couple of weeks ago. They send out a picture just about every day of what they make for their “lunch”. The picture that looked so appealing and stuck with me was a curry. Theirs was made with pumpkin and garbanzos. I love a good curry, and as far as I am concerned pumpkin is not much different than butternut squash. Do you see were I am going here? Curry was now what was for dinner!

I went into the kitchen and pulled together the butternut squash, onion, potatoes, and garbanzos. I also chopped the usual curry basics: some ginger, garlic, hot chilies, and garlic. I placed a pot on the stove and started layering my flavors and building my spices. (That is what I have learned that makes curries so enticing…it is all about the layering of flavors!) Once my ginger, chili, garlic, and onions sizzled away with lots of curry powder I added in the veggies and covered it all with some veggie broth. It all became fork tender and the liquid thickened and reduced a bit. In my opinion this dish was perfect. It was fiery, had a kick of spice, and awakened my senses beyond the basic holiday flavors I have been eating over the past couple of weeks. I personally think it was perfect, but that is just me. If you want to give this recipe a try might I warn you that it is spicy! You can always tone it down; but where is the fun in that? I think all the holiday season should be a lively as this dish. It might bring on more excitement to all who try it.

Spicy Butternut Squash and Garba<br /><p class=nzos Curry " width="1024" height="768" /> Spicy Garbanzo and Butternut Squash Curry

Spicy Butternut Squash and Garbanzo Curry (feeds 4 – 6)

1/2 and onion chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tbsp of minced ginger

2 serrano chillies, chopped small

2 tbsp of Madras curry powder (or any favorite curry powder you may have)

3 tbsp of oil (peanut, vegetable, or coconut)

1 can of garbanzos, drained (15 oz)

3-4 red potatoes, chopped

5 cups chopped butternut squash (skin peeled and seeded)

vegetable broth, about 6 – 8 cups

Sea Salt to taste

plain yogurt for serving

lemon wedges for serving

Rice to serve with (jasmine or bastmatti), cooked

First, place a 6 quart pot over medium heat and warm through. Place your oil in the pan and warm through. To this add your curry powder and let it all sizzle together until the curry become fragrant and slightly toasted. To this add your onion and stir a bit until coated and sizzling. Add your ginger, chilies, and garlic and continually stir. You are looking for your onions to become translucent and the other spices to become fragrant.

Next; add your garbanzos, potatoes, and butternut squash. Stir it well until well coated with the oil and spice mixture. once your veggies are simmering and coated add your broth and bring t a simmer. Cover you pot and let it simmer over medium to low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring it frequently.

Then, once your veggies are tender with a fork you are just about done. Although, be sure to keep an eye on your liquid in the pan. you do not want it dry out and burn. If you feel it is getting to this point, feel free to add a bit of water if needed.

Finally, test your veggies an see if they are as tender as you would like. Once they are “done” to your liking, season it with sea salt to taste. Be sure to serve it while hot and over rice (if making). Along with lemon wedges and yogurt if you like. (The yogurt helps calm down the spiciness a bit.)

Dec 22

Holiday Worthy Appetizers

Well the holidays are really, literally right around the corner. I feel like it have been neglecting this blog a bit, and for that I am sorry. But to be honest I have been neglecting all of my holiday cooking. I had no time to make cookies this year (gasp!), nor have I had time to get together with friends and decorate them! I did spend an afternoon making some of my Uncle Jimmy’s Chocolate Bottom Pecan Pie! (You can read about the pie and get the recipe here.) I made them so Brian and I could share them with our coworkers. That, unfortunately is where it ended.

I did, however make a few  recipes that I thought were perfect to share with you in the mean time. You see I did feel like the holidays were getting away from us so I made sure to whip up two little appetizers for us to indulge in this past weekend before we ate dinner. Brian and I got to sit and snack on them; and if you can you believe it, we actually got to sit and talk for a while before dinner!?! We have been so hectic around here that we really have not had time for some decent face to face conversation. This and the appetizer snacks were all too fitting for the occasion.

Holiday worthy appetizers: Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts & Fresh Endive Boats

Holiday worthy appetizers: Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts & Fresh Endive Boats

The first of the appetizers I made is a Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts. They are slightly sweet, have a hint of spice, and the crunch of the roasted nuts makes them all too addicting. I have been making this recipe for a long time. I got it from the Martha Stewart Hors D’oeuvres Handbook I have had for years. I made it for our families years ago when we traveled back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving. I placed them in small bowls around the room for everyone to snack on at there leisure. My mom happened to sit next to one of the bowls and by the end of the evening told me: “Danielle, I think I ate all of those nuts! I couldn’t stop eating them – they are addicting!” This recipe is all to perfect, and always a pleaser.

Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts

Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts

The second of the two appetizers were endive boats. I made things like this when I catered all the time. I will be honest though, what I fill them with totally depends on my mood and more importantly the season. You just line them up of a tray or platter and fill them carefully so that they are uniform. I try to always make sure they are colorful and have a balance on texture and flavor. For these, I filled them with freshly sliced figs, goat cheese, topped them off with some fresh chives, and a dab of balsamic. They are all together perfect with a crunch from the endive, creamy from the goat cheese, and slightly tangy from the fig slices and balsamic.

Endive Boats with Goat Cheese and Fresh Figs

Endive Boats with Goat Cheese and Fresh Figs

Both of these “snacky” appetizers were great for unwinding, building time together, and light enough not to spoil our dinner. I must also say that they were elegant enough to make us feel a bit more into the holiday spirit. The nut recipe makes quite a bit, so we wrapped up the remainders and shared them with our coworkers. The endive can be made as you go, so don’t feel obligated to make a ton of it…just what you feel is necessary. If you find the time to make these this holiday Im sure you and your company will greatly enjoy them. Plus, you will have the added benefit of no fuss while having time to spend with your company. I am sure you will enjoy them as we, and so many others have over the years. Happy Holidays to all of you!

Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts (makes 5 cups)

*From Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook

5 cups of mixed nuts: walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts (mix them as you like)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 small shallots, thinly sliced crosswise into rings (yields about a 1/4 cup)

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise

2 tbsp of unsalted butter

1/4 cup coarsely chopped rosemary

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp packed dark brown sugar

1 tbsp losher salt

First, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the nuts in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Toast until the nuts are golden and fragrant, 8 – 10 minutes. Rotating the pans half way through. Transfer the nuts when done to a large bowl and set aside.

Next, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic: fry until golden (3 – 5 minutes). Transfer the shallots and garlic to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Finally, melt the butter and pour it over the nuts. Add the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, and salt – stir it well to combine. Toss in the crispy garlic and shallots. Serve warm. Can be reheated in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. (Keeps up to a week when well wrapped.)

 

Endive Boats (feeds 4 -6)

**Note: can be made up to 1 hour ahead and but keep refrigerated, and best to be kept fresh.

1 – 2 heads of endive

about 4 – 6 oz of fresh goat cheese

3-4 fresh figs, trimmed and sliced

2 tbsp of chopped chives

Balsamic vinegar

Fresh black pepper, to taste

First, trim and remove the endive leaves. I like to line them up to keep them evenly in shape and size, trimming where necessary.

Next, line your endive on your serving platters and drop a small, yet even mount of goat cheese into your endive leaves. Next to the endive place the fresh fig slice.

Then, with a spoon, drop a small amount of the balsamic over the goat cheese. Sprinkle the chives evenly over the endives. Chill until ready to serve.

Finally, when ready to serve sprinkle enough black pepper over the endive boats (just to your own taste and liking) and serve.

Dec 19

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

I can honestly say that I remember Thanksgiving, and I turned around and it was today (December 18). In-between then and now is a complete blur. I have been busy at work, taking care of our dogs, Christmas shopping, Christmas wrapping, holiday parties, and now…Holiday cards to be sent. I usually am more ahead of the game, but for some reason between family visiting and birthdays to celebrate I lost a hold on time and here we are. One week away from Christmas and I was not prepared for it until yesterday!

Yesterday, I packed my last box and shipped out our last packages out to the east coast. (That is where almost all of our family resides.) Our dinning room table for the last week looked like a controlled chaos of wrapping paper, scotch tape, ribbons, and scissor clippings. I must say that I am happy to have it all back to normal now. Martini and Latte came with me to ship the packages, and if you ask me they were really happy to see the packages go. I think they have been feeling a bit neglected. Somehow, we all have felt that way. Oh, how we love the holidays!

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

With all the hustle and bustle to get to the grand finish line of the holidays I have almost forgotten to cook! On my way home from work the other day I stopped by one of the produce vendors at the market and asked the workers “What looks good this week?” they responded with: “Fennel, grapefruit, romanesco, and blood oranges.” I purchased a couple of them all and headed home. While throwing together dinner I whipped up a salad with the fennel and the grapefruit. I was hoping for something light and refreshing with a clean taste. The result was a shaved fennel salad with grapefruit slices. It was tossed together with hazelnuts, farro, and pomegranate seeds. It was just what the crazy agenda of holiday prep called for. Give it a try. If I could whip it up in no time, I am sure you all can to. The most complicated thing was cooking the farro; and after all, that is just simmering – how hard is that?

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad served up and ready to be devoured.

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad served up and ready to be devoured.

Grapefruit and Fennel Salad (feeds 6)

1 medium fennel bulb, some fronds reserved (about 2 tbsp)

1 large grapefruit; peeled, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, and slices quartered

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1 cup of hazelnuts; skinned, toasted, and roughly chopped

1/2 cup farro

1/4 onion

1 garlic clove

2 bay leaves

Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First, place the farrow in a 2 – 3 quart pot with about 2 – 2 1/2 cups of water. To that add your onion 1/4, garlic clove, and bay leaves. Gently simmer it all until your water is almost all absorbed by the farro. Once the farro is tender (about 45 minutes) you can remove the onion, garlic, and bay leaves, Strain any remaining water and chill your farro in the refrigerator.

Next, thinly slice your fennel. Trim the bottom end and discard and slice it thinly until your reach the stalks and top of the bulb. (You can use a mandolin to do so, or you can just as well use a sharp knife.)

Then, in a bowl place your farrow, fennel, grapefruit, and  pomegranates.  Toss it together and refrigerate it for at least an hour (or up to a day ahead).

Finally, when ready to serve, drizzle the olive oil over it. Add the hazelnuts, sea salt and black pepper. Toss it well and sprinkle the fennel fronds over it and serve.

Dec 09

Dijon and Onion Tempeh. It’s not really old!

I am writing this post from my new computer! Yes, you read that right…brand spanking new! I have been wanting one for a long time now. Actually, I have been dropping hints about it for over a year now about how badly I wanted, needed, and yearned for a new computer. Nagging? Maybe, but it is here! I have one, and I cannot express how happy I am with it. The old one was just that, old. It took forever to find files, update itself, or think when trying to open a program. Using this new one last week I told my husband I wanted to weep. It was so fast and it didn’t freeze up on me. It was a completely smooth experience that did not leave me cursing, or threatening to throw it out my third floor window onto 3rd Avenue so a bus could run over it. (Unfortunately, there were many days like that with the old one.)

My beautiful new computer! (It is love at first sight.)

My beautiful new computer! (It is love at first sight.)

Brian gave me this computer for my 40th birthday. Yes, I reached my fourth decade. Some people asked me: How does it feel to be forty? The only logical answer I could sum up: Exactly the same as 39 did! I hate questions like this and I am guessing there is no right answer because I feel you are never giving the person asking what they want to hear. I’m never sure what people expect you to answer a question like that with? Are you supposed to say: I feel old? Fabulous? Over the hill? Depressed? Young? Wise? What I do know is I am not feeling as old as my last computer. And as far as I know Brian and our dogs are not wishing me to be run over by a bus either — so, all is good I guess!?!

Prep in place for the Dijon and Onion Tempeh.

Prep in place for the Dijon and Onion Tempeh.

Besides the computer, the birthday, Thanksgiving, and the holiday season fast approaching we have not spent much time at home. We have been rushing here and there and just about everywhere. Just this past week we were barely at home together, let alone sit down to a nice homemade meal. But between the craziness I made it a point to make a nice meal for Brian and I the other night. I dug deep into my childhood memories (a very long way considering I am so old now!) and made a meal my mom often made for us growing up. It was simple, comforting, and just what our crazy schedules have been calling for.

Tempeh- dijon and fried onion coated, and baked to a nice cripiness!

Tempeh- dijon and fried onion coated, and baked to a nice cripiness!

It is a dijon and onion dish she always made with chicken cutlets. There is no recipe really, you just dip or smear the chicken in the dijon and then coat it with the crunchy fried onions you always see this time of year. You bake it and serve it up with whatever you wish. I made it just the way my mom would have, with one exception. I did not use chicken. The vegetarian in me opted for tempeh instead, and let me just say it was just as good as when my mom made it. We feasted on this dish with some potatoes and veggies. I surprised myself that I was able to pull together such a great and delicious meal with all of our nonstop craziness we have been dealing with. This old and classic dish of my mom’s was new again! Not too shabby, but then again it is a lot like how I feel, not old. Just eat a meal from your childhood and it will keep you young, even if you have to reinvent it.

Dijon and Onion Tempeh plated and ready to eat.

Dijon and Onion Tempeh plated and ready to eat.

Dijon and Onion Tempeh

Tempeh – enough so that you have one to two pieces per person

Dijon Mustard, one small jar is more then enough for 4 – 6 people

1 container of Fried Onions (I personally like the Trader Joe’s brand)

Olive oil

First, place your dijon and fried onions in separate bowls or plates and set aside. Set your oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking dish with parchment.

Next, slice your tempeh into 1 inch thick slabs and set aside. Coat you parchment lined baking dish, lightly with olive oil.

Then, dip or spread the dijon over the tempeh until it is well coated. Then dip the tempeh into the fried onions. I like to place the tempeh down into the onions until they stick in a nice coating, Once coated place them, sparingly apart on your prepped baking dish.

Finally, drizzle the olive oil lightly over the coated tempeh and back about 20 – 25 minutes. You are looking for the tempeh to have browned edges and to be crispy. Remove from the oven and serve once slightly cooled.

Nov 17

Homemade Candy Apples

I grew up in New Jersey during the late 70”s and 80”s. In my personal opinion it was a great time to grow up there. When autumn came around it was not uncommon to spend lots of time outdoors. The trees were gorgeously bright in colorful hues and the air was always crisp with a slight aroma of hay. There were football games to attend (Yes- I was a cheerleader in my former life), leaves to run through while tossing them in the air, and pumpkin patches to visit with family (it was somewhat a ritual way to spend a afternoon together).

There was a particular farm my family would go to religiously. It would all be decorated with scar crows and corn husks, along with bales of hay.  Pumpkins would be everywhere with multiple squashes and gourds, there was cider to drink, hot donuts to eat, and candy apples! In my adolescent mind it was the perfect feast.

Homemade Candy Apples

Homemade Candy Apples

As many things do, time changes. That farm sold and became more of a “strip mall” when I was nearing my twenties and it was not the same any more. There still were pumpkins, donuts, cider and all; but the nostalgia of it all was just not there. Maybe I just grew up? But there is a side of me that missed those fall days that were cold enough to be wearing a sweater. I would be holing a small pumpkin, shielding my eyes from the sunshine, and munching on a candy apple. By “candy apple” I literally mean an apple that has been made into candy of sorts. Not those soft and gooey caramel ones. I mean rock hard, red as a fire truck, sugar candy coated apple.

Yes, I have not lived in New Jersey for quite some time. But I still have those memories and I long for the taste of a good candy apple. Living here in Seattle I see caramel apples galore, dipped in chocolate too, rolled in all sorts of nuts and candy (although they look tempting)…those are not the apples I am missing. I want the hard crunch and crack of sugar as you bite into the apple. The bright, crisp, and slightly sour taste of an apple next to the sugary coating is such a contrast – to be honest it is quite like joy in my mouth. I miss it and wanted one desperately. Luckily, living in Washington and being the state known for apples we have more than a few varieties to say the least. Just go to any number of the farmer’s markets and you will see bushels full, and it seems like every week or so there is a new variety that makes an appearance. I love looking them over and picking up a few pounds worth to eat as the week goes by.

just one of the many Farmer Market Stands, with so many different variety of apples!

Just one of the many Farmer Market Stands, with so many different variety of apples!

So after craving a good candy apple I went to one of the farmers markets and picked up some honey crisp apples. They were not too large in size and I tasted them to be sure they were crisp. The flesh of these apples had a nice and bright flavor that I felt would pair nicely with the sugary coating. I picked up some unsweetened coconut shreds and headed home. (I really do not have an explanation for the coconut but the ones I use to eat had coconut on top of them.) Once home I dug into me cabinets and pulled out my thermometer and sticks to hold my apples with and I was underway. Within the hour we had Candy Apples! Yes, much like the ones of my childhood; but not bright red once. As the red coloring is just what it is, food coloring. I opted to be more natural, using no coloring and evaporated cane juice instead of white sugar. They were just like I remembered.  My husband and I sat around after dinner and crunched away at the candy apples. We grinned and giggled like kids too. Sometimes revisiting a food memory can be just as fun as you remember.

Finished - and waiting to be eaten.

Candy Apples Finished – and waiting to be eaten.

Candy Apples (feeds 8)

*Notes- you will need a thermometer for this. If you do not have a candy thermometer, I personally find one that has a probe on a cord that attaches to your “base” telling you the temp works great. These are usually used for roasts or something like a turkey; but I use it all the time for cooking something like a custard or sugar.

**Notes- because I used and all natural sugar is was golden in huge to start….that is why the sugar has some color. If using white sugar for this your end result will be a clear sugar coating.

 

8 apples, as many as needed (I like Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, or McIntosh)

2 cups of sugar

¾ cup of water

1 tbsp of light corn syrup

1 cup of unsweetened coconut shreds

Candy or lollipop sticks

 

First, wash your apples well and completely dry them.  Working on a flat surface, firmly hold your apple in hand while piercing it with the sticks. You want to pierce the apple though the center core of the apple. I find it works best to get the stick as far in as possible in order to “hold the apple once it is candies.

Keeping and organized work space is essential.

Keeping and organized work space is essential.

Meanwhile, prepare you work space. I like to have a parchment lined baking sheet ready, next to my pierced apples, a trivet for your pot of sugar, and a small plate filled with the coconut shreds.

I find a thermometer like this works really well for cooking sugar.

I find a thermometer like this works really well for cooking sugar.

Next, in a clean pot (anywhere from 2 – 4 quarts big) place your sugar. Over the top of the sugar pour your water and with your finger gently stir it together to be sure all the sugar is wet. To this add your corn syrup. At this point I add my thermometer and then place it over medium heat (see photo above). Without touching your sugar let it come to a simmer and cook. You must keep a close eye on the temperature. You are waiting for the sugar to reach 290 degrees F or 143 degrees C.

Then, when temperature is reached; place your pot in the space you have reserved for it in your work space. Carefully – you do not want to burn yourself – take an apple by the stick and dip it into the cooked sugar, roll it back and forth to be sure it gets coated, and pull it out of the cooked sugar. I gently and carefully let it drip over the pot and give it a gentle shake to knock off any excess sugar.

Finally, place the apple stick side up in the coconut. Once the coconut sticks (it takes only seconds) place on your parchment to cool and harden. Once sugar has hardened it is ready to eat. Apples will keep for two to three days at room temperature. Be sure to keep in a dry place as if it gets “wet” the sugar will lose its crispness and get tacky.

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